Sramana: What came next for you?
Tony Jamous: My dream has always been to be an entrepreneur. I thought that getting an MBA would put me on a better path. That was completely wrong, obviously, but I left the company and went to IMB, which is one of the top MBA programs in Europe. I spent a year there, and after I graduated I had highly paid job offers from various corporations, but I turned them down to start my own company. One of my previous customers was interested in investing in my company, so I decided to reject the job offers and get started on my dream.
Sramana: What was the idea of your company? What was your former client investing in?
Tony Jamous: He wanted to invest in me, whatever I did. At that point you could have a great idea but really have no idea what the future would hold. What I wanted to do was disrupt the mobile messaging industry from sourcing to distribution. I wanted to do in that industry what Amazon had done in the brick and mortar vertical.
I envisioned a simple cloud API for developers to act as a telecom network. On the back end, I wanted to build a massive carrier network globally. That would streamline the packaging. I was really taking what I had learned from my previous experiences at companies and eliminating the inefficiencies. They were sitting on a huge market, but they were not distributing it as they could. Nexmo was all about streamlining the value chain.
Sramana: When you were getting started, how much money did you take?
Tony Jamous: My angel investor put in 200,000 euros.
Sramana: That is good. Too much money in the early stage can be harmful. That was enough angel capital to get something started. What did you do with that money?
Tony Jamous: A week after I closed the funding, I set out to solve the issue of the platform. I got in touch with one of my colleagues from my past who had built such platforms. He joined as the architect, and in a matter of months we had our first customer. Our focus was finding the minimum viable product necessary.
Sramana: Talk to me about the process of scoping that minimum viable product.
Tony Jamous: In our business it is about two things. First, it is about connecting to carriers around the world to send and receive SMS messages. From the front end, a customer would connect to us through an API. In the middle, you have things like account management, billing, payments and analytics. There is a lot of middleware that sits between the carrier and the customer. Building that network is a lot of work because you have to connect to a lot of carriers around the world.
The first thing I did was identify a market where few companies had a carrier relationship. I initially only had one carrier relationship. Today we have more than 80. We started with one connection that was highly needed in a market that had low supply. I started selling that to customers I knew. The first customer just wired us 5,000 euros without asking any questions.